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Supermen of Malegaon

The story of a small town whose communal make-up is apparent,without it being rubbed in.

Written by Shubhra Gupta | New Delhi |
June 29, 2012 6:54:31 pm

Cast:: Shafique,Sheikh Nasir,Akram Khan

Director: Faiza Ahmad Khan

Indian Express Ratings:****

Rarely have I seen such a joyous celebration of the madness cinema is. The locus is Malegaon,a small town a few hundred kilometres off Mumbai. The latter is the home of the big budget multi-starrers that keep us in thrall; the former a town which produces lickety-spit rip-offs of major movies. A few residents of Malegon recognise the fact that movies are magic; they also prove that to recreate that magic what you need primarily is imagination . If you have that,and a will,and inventiveness,you can get superman to fly. See,see,there he goes. Here’s delightful proof that a flight of fancy is no prisoner to big bucks. All you need is imagination. Faiza Ahmad Khan’s hour-long documentary tracks these supermen,whose determination to make movies harks back to those pioneers who must have done these things exactly like director Sheikh and leading man Shafique do,a hundred years ago.

At one level,we watch this film unit and its unique struggles to make ‘Malegoan Ka Superman’ : the director comes up with such a wonderful solution to the very expensive chroma screen that he can’t afford,that you fall in love with his enthusiasm. As well as his crew ( the word ‘motley’ comes to mind) who match him in resourcefulness and cheer and sheer good will. Khan’s camera is a friendly fly on the wall,capturing the making of the film,which has travelled around the world for the past four years gathering accolades at film festivals,in a spirit that is inclusive and incisive.

At another,it is the story of contemporary India. The story of a small town whose communal make-up is apparent,without it being rubbed in. The cast and crew is mostly Muslim,mostly not well-off,mostly from amongst those who work with their hands. Malegaon’s Superman ( Shafiue) a thin,scrawny fellow whose ability to soar in the skies is never in any doubt despite all the technical and financial glitches he faces,comes from a family of weavers. His day job is to work at his family loom : in his spare time,he wears the cape and the ‘chaddi’ and prepare to rescue his girl,and save the universe.

And did I forget to mention just how hilarious this enterprise is? Khan makes no attempt to paper over the conditions in which this gang shoots ( a whole sequence with Superman and his father is done against a pond which is so filthy that you shudder). Just the whole idea of taking a Hollywood superhero and turning him into a local one,with the resident ‘darzi’ coming up with his version of the iconic red and blue costume,is hugely funny. And what they make of it,as well as the making of it,made me smile throughout.

Because a Muslim girl from amongst the residents of Malegaon will not be allowed to act,the crew imports a girl from a neighbouring town,who’s a great riff on the classic big minded Bollywood leading lady,with her tantrums and her demands. She drinks Bisleri,and looks much more prosperous than her male companions.

These are the same people who in the past have made ‘Malegaon ke Sholay’ : that’s how it all started off. The success of that first copy led the intrepid filmmakers into further adventures. Just see how they do it in Khan’s terrific film. These are true supermen.

shubhra.gupta@expressindia.com

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